School Detention

Schools use detention for discipline in an attempt to promote responsible behavior. The premise is that punishment redirects irresponsibility. (I wish I would think that the rationale is not for retribution.)

When giving public seminars, I would often ask how many of the attendees were in schools that had detention. Most attendees raised their hands. I then asked how many found that very often the same students were serving detention. Inevitably, the same hands were again raised. I then would comment, “Doesn’t that say something about the ineffectiveness of detention?”

Perhaps the best paragraph I have read on the issue is from LouAnne Johnson in her book, “The Queen of Education.”

Using detention as a catchall cure for student
misbehaviors is like using one medicine for every
physical ailment. We would not expect a single
prescription medication to cure a cold, flu, broken
bone, ulcer, headache, heart attack, and cancer—
yet we expect one punishment to address tardiness,
aggression, bullying, emotional illness, inattention,
fear, anger, laziness, excessive talking, defiance,
childness exuberance, alcoholism, daydreaming,
forgetfulness, profanity, truancy, immaturity, drug
abuse, cheating, lying, stealing, and extortion among
schoolchildren. (page 65)

I believe that one can say with great confidence that detention does not serve its intended purpose. Implementing “Guided Choices”—the third phase of the Raise Responsibility System—by ELICITING a procedure or consequence from young people to help themselves become more responsible is a simple, common sense approach.  One wonders why, in the 21st century, schools are still resorting to such counterproductive approaches such as detention!

1 Comment
  1. Nice Article. Discipline with punishment nor reward works. All punishment at their best provide a temporarily behavioral change in children. The school system and their management fail to understand the emotional pain they cause when they blame and shame a child for things that in some cases are not even within their control. Such as getting to school on time or wearing the right uniform specially if a child lives in two households and etc. I am shocked to see some of the top rated schools still pride themselves in this outdated and old fashioned system. Working with a child, taking the time with the parents and understanding and solving the issues takes much more effort but provides long term behavioral change.
    The super nanny syndrome where a drill sergeant changes children in a matter of hours has blindsided this supposedly highly educated sector.